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Joe Nelson - Blogs

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NEW YEAR'S DAY - JUST NOT WHAT IT USED TO BE.

By Joe Nelson
Posted 01/02/2008 at 10:41 AM

An exciting New Year’s Day of bowl action provided a couple of good games and a couple of blowouts. BCS snub Missouri came up with a big day but it was the running game that dominated rather than QB Daniel and the air attack as Missouri RB Temple greatly outshined Heisman candidate and recent SUV recipient McFadden. Georgia and USC made solid cases for BCS Championship game inclusion with big wins. Let’s all hope that neither LSU nor Ohio State pull off a performance similar to Oklahoma circa 2004 and make us all feel robbed. Although the national media will be talking up Georgia and USC, Missouri is the team that has the most to complain about. The Tigers beat Illinois and won at Mississippi playing a solid non-conference schedule. Missouri lost to just one team all season long and certainly was more deserving of a BCS spot than Kansas, Hawaii, or Illinois.

The USC final score was a bit misleading however as Illinois was driving to pull within four in the third quarter before a drastic turn of events. Illinois receiver Wills fumbled inside the ten, resulting in a touchback. On the ensuing possession the Trojans looked to be in trouble as a pitch pass turned into a loose ball, but conveniently it ended up in RB McKnight’s hands for a 65-yard gain. The Trojans defense did a good job containing Illinois QB Williams but RB Mendenhall still had a big day. The USC offense was fairly sloppy overall and the bounces fell with the Trojans today as a couple of loose balls ended up in USC arms and there were at least two possible fumbles that were ruled down from USC players. Despite the lopsided score I don’t think USC is on par with some of the other elite teams this season even if the Southern Cal fan support and press will claim they were deserving of a national title shot after the Rose Bowl win. Perhaps my Midwestern bias is showing through a bit, but it seemed at times to be a somewhat classless performance by USC with multiple taunting penalties, ridiculous touchdown celebrations, and a fake-kneel down play at the end of the first half. For a team that has owned the Rose Bowl in recent years I expected a little more of a ‘we’ve been here before, we’re here to win’ attitude but the Trojans acted as if scoring on a marginal Illinois team was a huge accomplishment.

An inauspicious start for Hawaii was a true sign of things to come as Georgia came to play in a dominant Sugar Bowl win. When you have primarily a no-huddle offense and you are called for delay of game on your first offensive play, things probably are not going to go your way. It is a shame that Tennessee beat Kentucky late in the year to steal the Georgia/LSU SEC title game match-up as that could have been a great game and a true play-in game for the BCS Championship.

A few notes on the Sugar Bowl:

-Hawaii QB Brennan went from Heisman candidate and NFL hopeful to looking for a spot in a practice squad tryout for those that are not drafted. It is somewhat surprising his past legal troubles in Colorado were not a bigger story alongside his record setting performances this season. The events were nearly four years ago but it is good to see that Brennan made the most of his second chance.

-Hawaii special team player Keenan Smith was pure entertainment with a huge celebration after an egregious personal foul on an early hit in punt coverage. He was gold on camera with a psychopath stare and constant complaints after being called for another special team penalty later in the game.

-Georgia’s running game is really good, and RB Moreno is a treat to watch. It makes up for QB Stafford being average at best.

-The band that performed the Star Spangled Banner was named ‘Bonerama’. No joke.

In earlier action Michigan and Wisconsin gave respectable performances to save some face for the Big Ten. The Badgers had two great opportunities to win late in the game and came up short and Michigan survived turnovers and held on for a big upset over Florida. It was a great win for Coach Carr to leave on and the response of his players shows how much he meant to them even if Michigan supporters have had their fill of Carr. That said, it also showed that Michigan has underachieved in recent years as those performances should have been more common.

No one saw it, but the NHL delivered a gem of a game and a unique atmosphere with the outdoor game in Buffalo on Tuesday. For a league that is desperately trying to gain back fans it was a pretty serious error in judgment to schedule the game for New Year’s Day and compete with several big-time bowl games. Why not wait a few weeks and compete with college basketball rather than football. Or do it on a weekday night when there are few major sports attractions. It will still be cold enough to make ice in Buffalo for another two months. Speaking of scheduling, the dragging out of the bowl games is getting more annoying each year. January 1st has no where near the cachet it once did. How can next Saturday’s International Bowl expect to compete with an NFL playoff game? Wouldn’t it make more sense to play it on a Friday night? Or perhaps it might work as an under card to the BCS Championship playing an early evening start on the same day? Granted gate receipts and sponsorships are far more important to revenue than TV viewers but it will be tough to build a following and a tradition in such a tough timeslot, especially when you are working with Rutgers and Ball State as the match-up.

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